Juvenile Perpetrators Deserve Equal Punishment

Editorial Contest Winner

Becky deMontigny, Writer

No matter the crime, no matter the criminal. Youth perpetrators have been getting away with far more than adults; their punishments need to be equal. Most courts conclude that adolescents have less responsibility for their actions and greater prospects for reform than adults. Having said that, shouldn’t juvenile perpetrators that commit horrible crimes be given the appropriate punishment? What many people don’t realize is how much crime young people commit compared to adults. For instance, 54% of all arson arrests come from juveniles, just like the recent fire at Helena High.

By default, the justice system gives juveniles slack and greater opportunities for redemption. Most of these kids abuse this detail, taking advantage of the court’s leniency. Overall, juveniles account for 16% of all violent crimes. In the past few years there has been multiple juvenile crimes in which the punishments have largely differed from each other, even for very heinous crimes. For instance, in Colorado, a 17-year-old male tracked, kidnapped, then murdered a 10-year-old girl. This juvenile was tried as an adult and was sentenced to life in prison plus 86 years, as it should be. However, in Georgia, a 12-year-old strangled an 8-year-old girl to death. This juvenile is only facing 2 years on “watch.” These two punishments largely differ from each other, though the crimes committed are very similar. It is not equal, and should not be done. No matter who it is, or what they’ve done, punishment should be equal.

Courts should not base their punishment decision on age, race, or gender. What is done is done. Even with juveniles possibly being able to be rehabilitated, that rehabilitation process can be achieved with their full appropriate punishment. The sentence should fully be based on the crime.

Juvenile Justice has found that in 1999 juveniles accounted for 32% of all property crime arrests, 42% of all vandalism arrests, 31% of all larceny-theft arrests, and 33% of burglary arrests. These numbers are shocking, knowing that these kids are doing the same damage as adults but getting away with it. Imagine all the costs, emotional stress, pain, and disasters these kids have caused, but do not have to give back for. Juveniles cannot receive rehabilitation if they do not “pay back” for their actions.

Overall, a crime’s sentence should be based on what a perpetrator has done, with no leniency for differing age, race, or gender. For instance, consider the kids that set fire to HHS after causing millions of dollars in damage. Should they be charged based on their age, or the crime they committed?

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